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‘Impero seduttore’. Il soft power nelle relazioni Stati Uniti-America Latina

N. 8 Nuova Serie

Primavera-Estate 2015 - Anno XXII

A cura di: 
Benedetta Calandra e Erminio Corti
‘Impero seduttore’. Il soft power nelle relazioni Stati Uniti-America Latina

‘Impero seduttore’. Il soft power nelle relazioni Stati Uniti-America Latina - p. 5

Benedetta Calandra
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Sul soft power: alcune osservazioni - p. 9

Peter Baumann, Gisela Cramer

Few categories of the social sciences have been so successful as “soft power” to become a household word among politicians, political commentators, and practitioners of (what today is called) public diplomacy in such a short time. Coined by Joseph Nye in the late 1980s, “soft power” seeks to conceptualize a dimension of power that does not rest on carrots and sticks (that is, on the ability to coerce or induce through rewards), but on attraction, and it does so in order to explain the ability of actors in the international system, mainly states, to guide and lead others. This essay provides a brief outline of Nye’s theoretical propositions before discussing an inherent vagueness, which (we argue) tends to lead to conceptual blurriness when “soft power” is put to analyze phenomena in the real world, including inter- American relations. There are very good reasons for “soft power” to have found ready acceptance well beyond the academic community, we suggest, but in the end this approach does not provide the analytical tools it seems to promise.

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Un Impero che seduce e che si riproduce. Politiche di controllo della natalità a Puerto Rico (1898-1960) - p. 21

Benedetta Calandra

Since the 1898 war, Puerto Rico has represented a peculiar territory in terms of inter-American relations and has often been considered a sort of experimental laboratory of the United States imperial policies, later reproduced abroad. Building on Laura Briggs’ book Reproducing Empire. Race, Sex, Science, and U.S. Imperialism in Puerto Rico (2012), the article focuses on the birth control policies implemented by the United States from the end of the nineteenth century to the trials on the first oral contraceptives, carried out on the island at the beginning of the 1950s and extended to the United States in 1960 after the authorization of the Food and Drug Administration. These policies have been quickly tagged by the most active nationalists and some feminist groups as ‘"genocidal." Several different primary sources, though, highlight a plurality of social subjects and very different reactions to those policies, ranging from sharp rejection to eager acceptance, for instance by health professionals in search of modernization and of solutions to a chronic problem in the island, poverty, partly due to overpopulation. Analyzing this set of issues leads us to a sort of intersection between "hard" and "soft" power, either unilateral and imposed or negotiated and even attractive, according to the different social subjects involved.

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Il cinema strumento di hard power. Come gli Stati Uniti distrussero l’industria filmica argentina durante la Seconda guerra mondiale - p. 34

Ursula Prutsch

The article focuses on the Office of Inter-American Affairs (OIAA), founded and led by oil magnate Nelson A. Rockefeller in 1940, which shaped the US policy toward Latin America during World War II. As one of a series of emergency agencies established to deal with urgent security issues, the OIAA was set up to strengthen the economic, political, and cultural ties with Latin America in order to combat Axis inroads into the hemisphere, deepen U.S. influence in the region, and secure the allegiance of Latin America in the upcoming struggle. While Brazil, the most important war partner of the United States, served for a variety of OIAA programs, pro-axis Argentina fell victim of the US embargo politics, which led to the destruction of the Argentine film industry. A first strategy was to put pressure on Argentine cinemas, so that they would banish German and Italian films from their programs. If they refused to do that, they were threatened of not receiving US films anymore. Another US strategy was to limit the exportation of raw film material to Argentina to a minimum. Both measures severely damaged the local film industry and show that film as an economic and cultural product could be an object of hard power.

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Cinema e propaganda nordamericana in Cile durante la Seconda guerra mondiale - p. 44

Fernando Purcell

This article studies the phenomenon and the impact of propaganda films circulated from the United States in Chile during World War II. I argue that the series of film projects planned and created by the United States during the conflict were part of a cultural diplomacy that was not separated from Washington’s main diplomatic guidelines. On the contrary, the close connection between the Hollywood film industry and the Department of State is evident. Regardless of specific negative reactions associated with representations that hurt Chilean identity, films and other forms of propaganda were largely circulated throughout the country and contributed to the consolidation of the United States message within the Chilean population.

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Guerra e spazio domestico (1940-1945) - p. 54

Sol Glik

The "American Way of Life" arrived in Latin American countries in the 1940s, through an unprecedented advertising campaign. As a weapon of war of the Office of Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs (OCIAA), the powerful arsenal of triumphal images produced by the U.S. State Department associated the war technology and domestic life. This campaign was designed as a cultural offensive against Nazi fascism in Latin America. Several sources of the United States government checked the connections with one of the most successful media in the twentieth century: the international editions of the American magazine Reader’s Digest. Through new values, attractive for a Latin American audience, it became part of its repertoire of emerging notions of comfort, in the context of what Beatriz Colomina called "a new form of domesticity." This paper explores the impact of this cultural offensive in production and consumption, articulating political and economic elements with everyday and domestic life, in a gender perspective.

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Imparare a desiderare: il capitalismo affettivo in The Great Gatsby - p. 65

Donatella Izzo

This essay offers a re-reading of The Great Gatsby based on an analysis of several parallels between Jay Gatsby, the novel’s protagonist, and Steve Jobs. By highlighting these parallels, showing the cultural continuities between the literary and the real-life character and their respective historical moments, the essay interrogates the significance and the lasting contemporary relevance of Gatsby’s story, reading it as a powerful instance of "affective capitalism," that is, of capitalism’s need and capacity to produce emotional and affective attachments, as opposed to mere rational considerations or interests. Gatsby and his myth embody the dynamics of desire in consumer culture, as described among others by Slavoj Žižek, but also point to the limits of democracy in its contradictory relation with capitalism, and to its open-ended quality as a democracy, in Jacques Derrida’s terms, perpetually "to come."

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Pubblicitari e PR nella propaganda statunitense delle due guerre mondiali - p. 80

Ferdinando Fasce

In both world wars, though in different ways, U.S. admen and public relations experts proved crucial to the mobilization and propaganda activities, took advantage of their private and public role to enhance their reputation and that of business in the public’s eyes, and through it all helped establish new links within the configuration of business, government, and the public. A comparative analysis of the two mobilizations is missing from the growing literature on WWI and WWII. This is what this article intends to do on the assumption that only the longer, comparative perspective embracing both conflicts and highlighting the continuities and discontinuities between them enables to grasp the full complexity of the phenomenon.

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“It Plays out Like a Novel”: Mad Men e la legittimazione artistica nella serialità televisiva - p. 98

Anna De Biasio

Focusing on Mad Men (2007-2015), the essay starts from the assumption that the comparison established between contemporary (American) Tv series and novels is part and parcel of the strategies of legitimization that in the last twenty years have changed the perception of serial television. The suggested line of inquiry is twofold. On the one hand, the cultivation of a relationship with literary texts seems to depend on the cultural capital and the internalized dispositions of the creators, critics, and audience of the series. On the other hand, the latter’s narrative and stylistic complexity does lend itself to be analyzed through an intersemiotic comparison with the novel. Both perspectives suggest the coexistence in Mad Men of a variety of novelistic models, from the realistic to the historical novel, from the postmodern to the proto-modernist one.

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Sergio Leone in piazza Tahrir. Riconfigurazioni del western prima e dopo la Primavera araba - p. 112

Susan Kollin

The Western has undergone important permutations throughout its recent global travels, capturing the attention of populations in the Middle East where fiction and film have all reconfigured the possibilities of the genre. Through a process of adaptation and revision that recasts the traditional divisions between savagery and civilization, the Western has been revised in important ways by the very audiences who have been targeted as threatening during the war on terror. This essay attends to the routes through which the genre has traveled before it arrived in the Middle East, noting that in many cases, the Western looped back to a European context, specifically to the critical cinematic tradition of the spaghetti Western, where it experienced important revisions before it arrived in the Middle East. The Western referenced in these global texts is thus not the American Western per se, but the Italian one, a development that highlights the important transnational influences in the genre’s cultural history and that dislodges the exceptationalist narratives that often shape scholarship about the Western.

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Giustizia e New Deal: linciaggi, casi celebri, processi e immaginazione forense - p. 128

Cinzia Scarpino

This article is an excerpt from the first chapter of Scarpino’s forthcoming book Anni Trenta alla sbarra: giustizia e letteratura nella Grande Depressione, which investigates how the categories of law and social justice are represented in 1930s literature and culture. The excerpt combines thematic specificity (lynching and trials) with anthropological, philosophical and political concerns and benefits from studies in "Law and Literature" entailing interdisciplinary analyses of law in literature and law as literature that posit a residual, ancillary, factually vicarious but symbolically decisive function of literature in regard to law. In dealing with lynching, the article attempts to show how the interrelated work of law and literature helped enlarge the scope of citizenship in terms of racial inclusiveness. The part on trials draws a more literary analogy between New Deal law and literature focusing on the narrative pact between narrator and reader and on the unprecedented role of the reader as a juror who has to adjudicate cases of social injustice.

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